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4 Ways to Release Material Wants

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Woman putting things on shelf

Gary Houlder/Thinkstock

Here are four ways to practice releasing attachment to material belongings.

To have and to hold. Good thing in a marriage, bad thing when it comes to material possessions. It’s easy to have and hold on to way too much stuff, especially if you’re like me and love to shop. One of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism is that suffering is caused by attachment. For this week’s Healthy Habit, let’s look at four ways to practice releasing attachment to material belongings.

Understand the psychology

According to marketing researchers at Brigham Young University, there are two reasons we have a hard time getting rid of things. One is that the mere possession of an object changes our perception of it—belongings start to seem like extension of us, rather than simply objects. Two, we have pain aversion, where we are afraid that the pain of losing an object will be greater than the pleasure we had of obtaining it in the first place. Understanding these mental biases helps us step back a bit.

Practice daily

On her blog 365 Less Things, writer Colleen Madsen chronicled how her decluttering journey started as a New Year’s challenge: She decided to give, throw, or sell one item every day from her home or garage. The pleasure of this is it’s ongoing daily practice.

Think from the object’s point of view

If you are not using or appreciating things, they are trapped. Take, for example, those cute boots that you never wear because they pinch. They are dying to get out and see the world! Set them free so they can explore Paris, accompanied by someone with slightly different shaped feet. See how much more lovely that feels than “I wasted $60 on these boots…”?  Go boots, go on your journey!

Take this seriously

“Clutter, in any of its manifestations, has a negative impact on our energy, our attitude and our effectiveness,” writes resilience expert Sue Kearney on her blog. Many energy experts feel that a cramped environment can create energy blockages, blocking us from living up to our true potential. When you view streamlining and simplifying life as a task vital to your wellbeing, it becomes easier to make it a priority.


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.  


This entry is tagged with:
MaterialismClutterHealthy Habits

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